Tolman was born in TA 2941 (SR 1341) the same year Bilbo Baggins went off with Gandalf on the Quest for the Lonely Mountain. He was the father of Rosie, Tolman Jr., Wilcome (Jolly), Bowman (Nick), and Carl (Nibs). He was married to Lily Brown.
Tom lived in Bywater's South Lane. Tom was considered the "chief person round here [Bywater], and the sturdiest," and when the four hobbits of the Fellowship of the Ring returned to the Shire, Frodo sent Sam to his house to recruit him and his sons for the upcoming fight. He was Frodo's main source of information on how things stood in the Shire before the Battle of Bywater.
When Sharkey's Ruffians arrived at Bywater to put down the hobbit rebellion, the first person to talk to them was Farmer Cotton. He told them they weren't wanted. After the first group of Ruffians men was subdued, he hosted Frodo, Sam, "Gaffer" during the troubles before the four hobbits' return.
Tom Cotton fought in the Battle of Bywater and the "very considerable rise in the fame and fortune of the Cottons dates from this time;" he, along with two dozen other hobbits, also escorted Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin to Bag End to look for Lotho Sackville-Baggins after the battle.
He died in FO 20 (SR 1440).
Portrayal in adaptations
- In the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), he appears and lives in number 3.